A Decalogue: ten answers to questions

Keep posts going with an ‘Answer these Questions‘ post.

1 – Could the cause of all nature, space, and time, be natural, spacial, and temporal?

No. If the cause were spatial (notice spelling) then space would have already existed. The same is true for time. The idea of the cause being a-temporal and non-spatial is pretty well established. Stephen Hawking popularised the idea that there is no ‘before the Big Bang’, because that is where time began, so you cannot go ‘before’.

But this does not take us to intelligence. In fact, could an intelligence be free of space and time? How does thinking happen without the passage of time?

Lawrence Krauss argues, in A Universe from Nothing, that nothing is an unstable thing and will breakdown into something. So the cause may be a fundamental principle of nature (expanded over all of existence, even if that incorporates more than just our universe).

 

2 – Is there an objective moral difference between the pro-choice stance and the pro-life stance?

Yes. The moral value that is binding is the value that Sam Harris describes in his book The Moral Landscape; the safeguarding and protection of wellbeing for all conscious creatures. The pro-choice model is the closest one to this; the conscious mother makes the choice about whether she feels emotionally, financially or physically ready to go through pregnancy and raise a child. The foetus is not conscious and so is not directly considered in this equation. What is considered is the mother’s right to keep the child if she wants. There is an extent to which the foetus is directly considered, and that is under the recognition that the child will become conscious. But that is a probabilistic model.

The pro-life model does not consider wellbeing, but instead values the sanctity of life. So long as there are suicides, I do not think it is a well-considered thought that life is more important that wellbeing. So long as wellbeing can be so low as to make people want to kill themselves or be assisted in doing so I think it is evident life is not more important than wellbeing.

I find it curious that some people are happier painting atheist’s with Richard Dawkins’ “there is, at bottom… no good and no evil” brush, instead of the eloquent and beautiful words of Sam Harris.

 

3 – If you are a mythicist (a person who believes that Jesus never existed), is it possible that your position is influenced by your opposition to religion?

Yes. That is perfectly possible, in the same way that your acceptance of the Bible clouds your judgement of the evidence against Jesus’ existence. But that bias is not the only reason.

The Bible is the only record of Jesus’ existence, and it’s a book full of clear mistakes. And the gospel accounts contradict each other. And we’d expect extra-Biblical evidence; Jesus was not a quiet guy that upset no one, he was killed in a legal system. But there’s no record.

4 – What would you accept as evidence for the existence of a transcendent Creator of the universe?

Weird and wonderful evidences, like clouds arranging into the words “The Bible is the word of the One True God”, still would not convince me. Occam’s Razor doesn’t allow it. I am more likely to consider it an optical illusion or a mirror trick or a sky writer (depending on size and font). Next on my list of explanations would be a weird cloud formation, after all there are a lot of clouds and they often look like things.

The fact is that I have no idea what would convince me. But God knows what would convince the religious, and gave it to them. God equally knows exactly what would convince me and hasn’t offered it. The ball here is in God’s court.

5 – If natural determinism is true, then would it be the case that your beliefs and non-beliefs are just a consequence of a previous natural cause; a chemical reaction in the brain, and not necessarily reason?

Yes. What I believe and what I do is the result of chemical processes and previous events. No, that does not necessarily negate the concept of “reason”. One of the prior conditions is evolution, where having a grasp of the world has been an advantage. So, I may not have a choice over what I have reasoned, but that doesn’t mean it’s not reason. Computers have no choice over what they compute.

 

6 – Is it possible that the cause of genetic similarities would be that there is a common designer?

Genetic similarity is, perhaps, an overly simple description of what we see when we look at the genome of animals. The genomes are similar, but the important detail is that they fall into a hierarchy like a family tree. And that genetic hierarchy looks a lot like what the “tree of life” looked like before we have the genetic data to work with (and just fossils). This complicated phylogenetic tree of life is very different from the simple idea that all animals are genetically similar.

And that tree of life is evidence of a process, not an event.

None of that says there is no God behind this process, however there’s no reason to assume that is the cause. God would be an entirely superfluous guess to the model, so you have to question what the odds are of your guess, not based in reality, being right.

 

7 – Is it possible that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil and suffering?

Simply, no. If God wants to do something, but has a moral reason not to, then that something is not moral. By your narrative, can God want to do something immoral? Of course not. By this reasoning, God cannot want to protect us from suffering if there is morally sufficient reason to permit suffering. On a deeper level, if God has a reason to prefer permitting suffering, what does it mean to say He wants to protect us from it? One or the other.

8 – If Christian theology were true, would you become a Christian?

Whether I would become a Christian depends on a few things. Firstly, am I convinced of the claims that the theology is true and thus the Bible is true? But history, as a disciple, cannot reach certain conclusions, like the resurrection, because it’s mandate is to figure out what likely happened, and there are simply more likely answers. I also don’t know how all the gospel accounts can be true. So, even if it were true, I may not know.

Secondly, what does it mean to be a Christian? Because even if I believed I might not like God. I am still able to declare what God has done as immoral, and would not worship Him. I would merely acknowledge Him.

9 – Many claim that they know the risen Lord lives because he lives in their heart. Would that be an inadequate way of coming to know truth?

This might work for the person. But this cannot work for another person. This is non-communicable, non-repeatable, non-investigable evidence. That is inadequate. But if it happened to me, I might come to know (but it may also be a hallucination).

 

10 – As an atheist, you support the claim that there is no evidence for God’s existence. That, in itself, is a claim which bears a burden of proof. So have you looked at all of the arguments?

I support the claim that I have not been presented with evidence for God and that certain definitions of God are impossible. I have examined all arguments presented to me.

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10 thoughts on “A Decalogue: ten answers to questions”

    1. I had the advantage of facing a cliché. All the questions are ones we, as atheists who discuss that on the Internet, will have come across before.

      Still, I annihilated it, didn’t I? 🙂

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